Anxiety over fire engineering

Insurers were among the most heavily criticised groups in a recent interview-based survey on attitudes towards fire-engineered building solutions.

The results were revealed by Peter Wilkinson, research engineer at the Fire Protection Association, from his initial work on a four-year PhD programme at Loughborough University. It also uncovered concerns about whether the fire engineering design community has the knowledge and tools to undertake fire risk analysis.

Other worries centred on data shortage, motivations and a focus only on life safety objectives. Mr Wilkinson highlighted them by quoting respondents, including: "Fire engineering is used for cost savings" and "fire engineering is used to legitimise deviations from what would otherwise be code-compliant buildings". Other gaps identified were a lack of experience throughout buildings' life cycles and relevant qualifications.

Insurers were criticised for being removed from the process, with comments including "the only message from insurers seems to be — put sprinklers in".

In their defence, Mr Wilkinson cited comments from insurers, saying they would welcome greater involvement "but the opportunities are few and far between because we are only asked for our opinion after designs have been agreed".

Architects, enforcers and practitioners were the other groups attracting significant criticism.

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